Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001


Let me ask you a, a, a, tangential question. Do you think I can imagine what you're saying?

You can hear me, but you cannot imagine. You can hear me, but you cannot feel it. Because I myself cannot understand it. And I was over there. And as, as I stated to you before. Most of us do not express these things uh, to Americans or to any other people who--because it makes us look foolish. Because the people eh, think that we exaggerate. So most of, most of the time we're not spending time d...discussing uh, it. Only among ourselves, and among ourselves in a way of, of, of a joke or kibitz. Uh, but we understand each other, even though we kibitz and laugh about it. Eh, but to express it to someone who hasn't been there eh, it, it just presents words, eh. People usually don't--do not have the ability to understand somebody else's problem. Even small problems. When people say eh, when someone says he's sick or doesn't feel good or has a headache or lost someone eh, someone who, someone loved like a husband or a child, people say, "I understand, I feel bad, I, I understand." They don't understand. Nobody understands somebody else's feelings. Eh, and eh, especially when--in, in, in the small, in, in items that are everyday problems. So how can anyone understand a problem that is so far, so, so far re...re...removed, remote from e...even the imagination or eh, eh, from, from understanding.

I've been trying to get us to do this for years uh, do you think one of the reasons you've been reluctant to talk up to now is that nobody will understand? Did that get in the way of your talking about it?

That is one of the reasons. This is just about one of the major reasons. I think I stated to you that in 1947, in December when I came over to New York and I was with some other people of my age, around seventeen and I went with one of my friends to visit his family one evening, I was only ten days in New York or seven days--I don't remember. I went to visit with one of my friends to visit his family and he begin--there was three of us that evening -- and he began to explain some of his, just some of his l...experiences in, in the camp, and I've seen the expression on his family's faces, and, and I was ashamed. I was, I, I eh, I, I knew that they uh, couldn't wait 'til he stopped speaking because they think, they thought that he's talking absolute nonsense. They didn't believe it, eh. And that was true with most people. They didn't believe it.

Why were you....

And you have to understand them. They couldn't comprehend it.

Why were you ashamed? Ashamed for them?

I was ashamed, no, I was ashamed that my, my, my uh, friend is, he's pouring his heart out, he's expressing things as, as genuine as they were. So I was really ashamed that, that he's expressing it and, and they think he, he's, he's talking nonsense. He was not an idiot, you know. And they--so I really felt bad for him, I was ashamed for him. That, that he doesn't see that he's expressing it and, and these people don't feel it.

So--do you think you decided at that point you weren't going to...

It's not a question of me decided, it's, it's a question of experiences, as I went to the orphanage later on and I spoke with Mr. Bonaparte. You could only speak some things because we realized that most people did not, could not comprehend the gravity of the situation. They could not understand.

When it came to--see I don't know--did you live in New York for awhile?

I, only one week at that time.

And then you came to Detroit?

I came--I went to the orphanage in San Francisco. I don't think I told you that, you know.


Okay, you see what happened after the war, my mother spent every penny on--every cigarettes that we got, she spent on private teachers for me to go to school because I missed six years of school. So, then we moved to Stuttgart specifically for that reason, I went in a German Polytechnikum already in Stuttgart. And they took me in on the basis that if I am good the first semester, if I pass it then they'll enroll me. But I was good enough that they didn't enroll--after the first semester passed and I pass all my tests, that was sometime in June, in nineteen uh, forty uh, seven, they did not start me from the first semester, they kind of enrolled me in the second semester because I passed everything properly. But I had a lot of help. I had a tremendous amount of teachers because during the six years in the camp we were not allowed to have eh, a pencil even. Actually the first two years we did in, but during concentration camps no one had a pencil. So I, I personally pretty near, pretty near forgot how to write, uh. So missing six years of school was tremendous amount of subjects to catch up, which I studied practically day and night. When I was in eh, we, we went to Poland originally. I think I told you that, I don't remember if I did, I think I did. In 1945, I found my uncle in Sopot, went to Poland, and I had private tutors over there. And then we went to Tirschenreuth, Germany which we uh, also was a traumatic experience because we're running away from Poland and we were not allowed to run away. The Jews were not allowed to run away, so we left Poland illegally. There was a group of nine of us. We met in Krakow and whatever belonging we had with us we carried on our backs and our hands. We took a train and then, then we had someone over there who was paid who one night took us across two borders. Was from, from Poland to Czechoslovakia and from Czechoslovakia to Germany, to Austria. Was all during one night. It was a winter night sometime uh, I believe in January 19-- uh, eh, 1948.

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